One Day You Too Will Be Old: The Amusement Park (1973) - Reviewed


The Amusement Park (1973) is a long lost public service announcement (PSA) directed by none other than George Romero. He picked up the job from a Lutheran charity group and although it was intended to serve an educational purpose, informing audiences about ageism and the problems that the elderly face, thanks to Romero's frenetic documentary style it ends up feeling evocative and surreal. The 16mm film was located and restored by the George A Romero Foundation (GARF) and had its premiere at the MoMA in New York City. Thankfully, horror streaming service Shudder has picked up the film as well so that a wider audience can check it out.

The film starts out with a somber information dump with a stern narrator speaking about how the elderly are treated in the US (none of which has improved since the '70s sadly) and a chilling warning thrown directly at the audience: "One day you too will be old". The thought is sobering, a haunting refrain that echoes throughout the rest of the short. Are we all doomed to languish in loneliness and obscurity in our latter years? Is there anything we can do to prevent it? The host even speaks wistfully about the elderly performers in the film lamenting that "Many of the actors said this is the most fun they have had in years".


After this the audience is whisked to a white room where the protagonist (Lincoln Maazel) is sitting, staring off into space. He is an older gentleman dressed in a snazzy white suit but he is extremely disheveled and covered in cuts and bruises. A cleaned up version of himself implores him to go outside but the defeated version cries out in anguish. Something outside has traumatized him immensely, he is gibbering in fear. It seems that the amusement park is to blame.

Time is rewound and we see what the man has experienced at the amusement park. The park itself is a metaphor for the world at large--a representation of the chaotic forward march of time. Time never stops or slows down and eventually the body and the mind become too frail to keep up. The man has problems doing anything, he is constantly jostled around and shooed away by impatient patrons and clerks. 



Each part of the park is meant to represent a facet of life that the elderly have problems accessing: the bumper cars are restricted, the man is trying to purchase food but they won't take his money and he can only get peanut butter and crackers to sustain himself, and an unscrupulous merchant tells him about a fabulous area of the park that turns out to be nothing more than a place to corral the old people and strap them into ominous workout machines and pointless games. It is quite harrowing to watch the old man flail around trying his hardest to participate and being thwarted at every turn until both his body and spirit are broken down.

Perhaps the scariest thing about this PSA is the fact that not much has changed since it was made, and that eventually we will all be forced into the same situation. Left to fend for ourselves forgotten and ultimately reviled as a burden to society.

--Michelle Kisner